E.T. and IT, Phone Home

The most common and often overlooked technology within your dealership is also the provider of your greatest profits. I am referring to your phone system. It's probably the best investment in technology your dealership has ever made. What percentage of your revenues do your phones affect in one way or another: 50%, 75%, 100%? It's in excess of 90% for many dealers. Phones are the life-blood of automotive

The most common and often overlooked technology within your dealership is also the provider of your greatest profits.

I am referring to your phone system.

It's probably the best investment in technology your dealership has ever made. What percentage of your revenues do your phones affect in one way or another: 50%, 75%, 100%? It's in excess of 90% for many dealers.

Phones are the life-blood of automotive retailing. Prospects call for your hours of operations, customers call to arrange delivery of their new cars or trucks. Appointments for service are booked by phone. Your parts department burns up the lines each day working with wholesale clients. The list goes on.

So why am I writing an information technology column regarding one of businesses oldest tools?

Because a quiet revolution is occurring, and progressive dealers are starting to realize the effects.

The revolution is that your phone can become an extension of your in-store dealer management system (DMS) and, in the process, voice has become an “application.”

You may be asking, “What the heck does voice as an application mean?” With today's voice over IP (Internet Protocol) phone systems, we can now integrate a caller's voice or your dealership's voice into an application and complete business processes and transactions.

Examples of how that's happening:

  • When a special order part is received the customer who ordered the part is automatically called and asked to pick it up or to schedule an appointment for service to install it. As the part is receipted into your DMS, the system triggers a call to the customer's preferred number and notifies them of the arrival, and assuming they pick up the message live, it will allow them to schedule an appointment with the shop without speaking to anyone from your store.
  • Nightly, your system automatically contacts each customer scheduled for a service appointment the next day. The customer has the option of either confirming the appointment or being transferred to a service receptionist to reschedule.
  • As a repair order is booked and billed, an automatic call tells the customer of the completed status, and allows the customer to connect to the cashier to pay the bill before arriving at the dealership, speeding-up the service delivery process.

This isn't Flash Gordon stuff of the future. It happens every day in hundreds of technologically progressive dealerships across the country. The key is that many business leaders decided that the phone of the 1980s and 1990s had served its useful purpose, but they want to derive more revenue and customer satisfaction out of this critical business system.

Modern phone systems are not cheap. But what other system can drive as much business revenue and profits? How many of us could survive even a day without access to our phones?

When evaluating a new phone system, it is critical to invest in some base elements. Specifically, your system needs to use voice over IP, as this is the standard for phone systems moving forward.

Be careful not to purchase previous-generation equipment. Look for a system that allows for easy expansion and growth with known costs for items such as new stations, handsets or features.

Most importantly, make sure your system can integrate to your in-house system to truly treat voice as an application.

Don't overlook this perceived lowliest of technologies that's sitting just inches away from you right now, if not clipped to your belt or stuffed into your purse. It may provide the biggest bang for your buck.

Matt Parsons is vice president of sales, marketing and portfolio management for the Automotive Retail Group of ADP Dealer Services.

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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